July 2009

Kelley returns, Carp sent back to Minors

There might not be a better way to spend three or so hours getting from New York to Boston than taking the Amtrak Acela Express.

The seats are wide and leg-room is plentiful, making the journey much better than flying, in my humble opinion. And you can eat something besides old peanuts or pretzels.

I have set up shop inside Fenway Park and several of the Mariners are playing football behind third base. Not exactly, bone-crunching tackle football, but game of catch the football, which is one of the ways the team’s conditioning staff breaks up the monotony of running.

Word just came through that right-handed reliever Shawn Kelley has been activated from the 15-day disabled list and first baseman Mike Carp was sent back to Triple-A Tacoma. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Carp didn’t get to play much during his two-plus weeks here, but he soaked it all in and the experience, brief as it was, will come in handy the next time he’s promoted.

The kid has a good swing and a fine future, possibly as a left fielder.

Getting Kelley back is a huge boost for the ‘pen. The rookie was one of the Spring Training surprises and started the regular season with gusto, compiling a 1.54 ERA in his first 10 big-league appearances. He was moving deeper into games, working the sixth, seventh and eighth innings before suffering a strained left oblique while throwing a pitch against the Rangers on May 6 at Safeco Field, going down in a heap after throwing his third pitch of the game.

His return gives Seattle arguably the strongest bullpen in the AL. Kelley, Miguel Batista, Mark Lowe and David Aardsma all throw hard.

We’ll get back to you with the lineups later, but I expect to see Ryan Langerhans name in there again. He had some quality at-bats in his Mariners debut against the Yankees last night.

And here is the lineup:

1. Ichiro, RF

2. Russell Branyan, 1B

3. Jose Lopez, 2B

4. Ken Griffey Jr., DH

5. Franklin Gutierrez, CF

6. Ryan Langerhans, LF

7. Chris Woodward, 3B

8. Rob Johnson, C

9. Ronny Cedeno, SS

P Felix Hernandez

— Jim Street

A rarity in The Bronx

ny skyline.JPG

NEW YORK — With coffee cup in hand, actually it’s sitting on the desk in front of me, there was something manager Don Wakamatsu mentioned last night that piqued my curiosity, and even at 93 years of age (in sportswriter years) my curiosity can still be piqued.

He mentioned that for one of the few times this season, Ichiro and Russell Branyan were held hitless in the same game.

Ichiro went 0-for-4 last night and never got the ball out of the infield, although he doesn’t have to get the ball out of the infield to get a hit, something that has happened 36 times this season.

Branyan went 0-for-4, and wore, as players call it, “A golden sombrero” which, in layman’s terms, means four strikeouts in one game.

It was, in fact, just the second time the Mariners’ one-two hitters went hitless in the same game this season, but the first time neither of them reached base. Ichiro was 0-for-4 against the Tigers on April 18 and 0-for-4 against the Rays on April 21. Branyan did not play in either game.

Ichiro was 0-for-4 against the White Sox in Chicago on April 28 and Branyan went 0-for-3, but the first baseman reached base on a walk. Same scenario on June 16 at San Diego. Ichiro went 0-for-4 and Branyan went 0-for-3 with a walk.

So having both of them go hitless in the same game and not make it to first base was a rarity, indeed.

For the second time this season, Branyan appears to be a little tired and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get tonight off against Yankees lefty CC Sabathia. Mike Sweeney could be at first base for the series finale.

This is the second time in the past two road trips that the Mariners have faced a hotter-than-blue-blazes team and have been unable to win. The Rockies were on a roll when the Mariners visited Denver last month and were swept in a three-game Interleague series. The Yankees had a five-game winning streak entering this three-game series and have won the first two games.

Maybe the weather can cool off the Bronx Bombers. Looking outside my hotel room window on the 27th floor of the not-exactly luxurious Courtyard by Marriott hotel on 3rd Avenue and 53rd Street (see above photo), clouds are rolling in and there is a good chance of rain this afternoon and evening. But because this is the Mariners’ one-and-only trip to New York this season, I have a hunch that we could wait all night to play the series finale.

I was wondering last night when was the last time Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez hit home runs on the same day in the same ballpark.

I was going to do some heavy-duty research, but I’ m a busy man and really don’t have the time. So, if you happen to know the answer, send me an email at jim.street@mlb.com and I will make sure to give you part of the credit for knowing the answer.

I have an answer. Ben Cooper from Couer d’ Alene, Idaho sent an email that said: “The most recent time that I have found that Griffey and A-Rod homered on the same day was on August 4, 1999. They went back-to-back off Devil Rays starter Ryan Rupe in the fifth inning. You may want to double check this, but as far as I’ve found, this is the most recent game that they have both homered.”

That could have been the last time they hit home runs in the same game as Mariners teammates and thanks to Ben. I will ask Junior a little later if he remembers if they hit home runs in an Interleague game. He would know as he has the best memory of just about anyone I ever met

A note just came out that the last time Griffey and Rodriguez hit home runs in the same game actually was Sept. 21, 1999. That info was provided by the Elias Sports Bureau.

Meanwhile, Tim Hevly (the team’s rock-solid P.R. dude in an office filled with solid P.R. dudes and a new mom on maternity leave in Puyallup) and I were talking last night about what the Mariners’ past few seasons would have been like without free agency. Can’t you just imagine having Junior and A-Rod being teammates from 1995 until now, with Randy Johnson in the rotation? Seattle could have been the MLB capital of the world for, oh, like almost 15 years or so.

Well, the coffee cup is empty, and you know what that means for someone from Seattle. Refill, please, with room.

It is now later in the day — much later — and the series finale has been delayed by rain. Well, delayed by the threat of rain. It is not raining and the tarp is not on the field, but this is New York, which explains a lot.

The last thing the Yanks want to do is have lefty CC Sabathia throw several pitches and then have to sit through a lengthy rain delay. But if it doesn’t start raining here pretty quickly, a lot of fans are going to get a little miffed.

One of the fans is Jack Nicholson, who is stitting directly behind home plate in one of those expensive seats.

An update: The game will start at 4:40 p.m. PT.

— Jim Street

Morrow, Chamberlain in similar boat

NEW YORK -The right-handed starter threw right around 100 pitches and made it halfway through the series opener between the Mariners and Yankees.

“It’s just learning how to pitch,” the manager said. “He is not what you would call an experienced big-league starter. There are some growing pains that you go through in learning how to pitch at this level.”

The manager added that his starter had “too many long counts.”

The manager was Joe Girardi and he was talking about Joba Chamberlain, a reliever-turned-starter.

Virtually the same things were being said in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium when Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu talked about right-hander Brandon Morrow, a reliever-turned-starter.

“The biggest thing we talk about is not about the stuff, but the inconsistency,” Wakamatsu said. “You saw some signs of real good pitching from him and that’s not easy against this ballclub, especially in this ballpark.”

Two pitching careers that have mirrored each other during the past three seasons were like identical twins at the new Yankee Stadium.

There seems to be a feeling in the blogger world — and a few media types — that the Mariners are doing Morrow a disservice by converting him back into a starter role at the Major League level, instead of grooming him at Triple-A Tacoma.

That is nonsense.

At some point, Morrow surely will find a release point that allows him to throw the ball where he wants and he has the kind of stuff that can dominate the opposing lineup. And it is better that he finds it at the big-league level – the same place a wild Randy Johnson found it early in his career, than in the Minors, as long as both he and the organization agree that this is the best approach in the big picture.

Johnson, after all, went through several years of “growing pains” before becoming one of the greatest pitchers in Major League history and he wasn’t sent to the Minor Leagues to “learn how to pitch”.

Chamberlain is going through the same transitional period as Morrow, and you don’t hear nearly as much “blogger chatter” about him being shipped to the Minors as Morrow.

–Jim Street